Sat. Aug 13th, 2022

Brussels, 11 July 2022

Stakeholders, top journalists, and researchers testified to MEPs on Monday as Parliament’s position on rules on the transparency and targeting of political advertising is prepared.

The hearing, held jointly by the internal market and consumer protection committee and the civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee focussed on the themes of transparency and targeting of political advertising.

All details of the hearing, including the invited experts, can be found here. You can watch the hearing again here (scroll to 15:22). On Tuesday, at around 10.00, MEPs will discuss the draft report prepared by the rapporteur Sandro Gozi (Renew, FR). You can follow the discussion on the draft report here.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Journalist, Maria Ressa warned MEPs that the main problem lies upstream in the form of how data is collected and used. Not effectively regulating this aspect will perpetuate the “never ending game of whack-a-mole”, she said. Ms Ressa, for that reason, stressed the need to explicitly define what data can be stored and used.

Karen Kornbluh of the German Marshall Fund explained how targeted political advertisements were maliscious and manipulative, undermining the very essence of the democratic process of debate by their secrecy. She explained that leading personalities in the field were championing the need to ban such form of advertisements which, she argued, amounted to “whispering in the ear of one, without letting others know what was being said”.

Computer researcher Piotr Sapiezynski explained how his team’s work showed that Face Book’s algorithms were designed with a bias towards showing an advert which reinforced a user’s views and that the company charges clients up to four times more to do otherwise. It was therefore important to address advert delivery and not only advert targeting in the legislation, he said.

Investigative journalist Carole Cadwalladr detailed how Cambridge Analytica had operated to rig the Brexit referendum process, underlining that the dangers posed by unregulated online political advertising were not theoretical but very real.

MEPs then also heard from industry and citizen stakeholders who mostly provided concrete suggestions of how the text should be amended to make it more workable.

The debate with MEPs, led by Mr Gozi (Renew, FR), focussed on how best to phrase the definitions in the legal text, whether to outright ban certain techniques, especially targeting, the extent to which responsibility for infringements should lie with online platforms, and how to address the price differentiation in advert delivery.